I’m a huge fantasy fan. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, however. I usually wait for years, letting my friends pare it down to a good series here and there, and then break down and read it all in one go. I wasn’t always so cautious, however. I once read D & D novels. I recently went back and reread a series of stories of my youth. The classic “we did this awesome D & D campaign let’s write it down!” story, the Dragonlance Chronicles. It was really fun to read, and I had forgotten a ton of it. It was a slightly better cribbing of the Tolkien story than I remembered, in truth. The writing is really not terribly good, but they take the basic premise of the story of Lord of the Rings and insert some fun spins. They don’t flesh out any of the characters, so it really does read like a late night adventure with stoned college kids. I’m okay with that, in small doses, so I had a really fun time following along again. The story, if you don’t feel like bothering wikipedia, is this: A band of adventurers come together in a world threatened by evil dragons, and find proof that the “old gods” exist. Together with help from the good dragons, they restore balance to the world. There are the typical D & D type characters. A half-elf, a warrior, his mage brother, a dwarf, a knight, and some strange hobbit rip off, a kender. Oh and there are some barbarians too. (I never got that archetype. What the hell makes a barbarian different than a warrior? He doesn’t use a fork?)
They manage a few really fun scenes, fighting dragons and rescuing people. The two brothers of the story, Caramon and Raistlin, have some nice moments. I can’t help but read everything the half-elf leader says in a Kirk voice. (“WE…must get them to safety… I AM… responsible!”) The writing is very stilted and unnatural, but they really run with some of the story elements. My only real problem is the central theme of triumphing over the evil armies is a little undercut by the epilogue of the book, where one of the “old gods” goes on about the balance of the universe. (I put old gods in quotes because there are no new gods… another quibble I have with the writing.)
Apparently, as this old god would have us believe, good is inherently intolerant and self absorbed, so it needs evil to be around to remind it why to fight. The elves are the example, because see they are good and they became self absorbed and turned from the world. That makes perfect sense see, because… What?! Wait, not to get all philosophy 101 on you here, but isn’t a basic tenet of our conception of “good” an outward focus, away from egotism and towards service and selflessness? You can’t just redefine good in order to justify having bastards around! That’s cheating!
But seriously, they didn’t try and write a masterpiece here, just a fun Tolkien rip off. And they did that. It’s pretty fun. The dwarf is Gimli 2.0, right down to some exact dialogue, and the kender is Merry or Pippin. The half-elf is Kirk, so that’s odd, but you have Sturm the Aragorn, and there’s a girl Legolas. (Like the movie Lord of the Rings! But I kid Orlando Bloom.) For a real intense read I’ll take Tolkien, or my new modern favorite, Jim Butcher, but for silly light entertainment when you’re not up for a serious read, this is perfect. Which I imagine is exactly why they wrote it. Good for them.
Now check out this truly atrocious animated version!